Faulty fuel pump parts that have spurred U.S. recalls of more than 450,000 SUVs by Volkswagen Group and its Porsche and Audi brands were supplied to 13 other automakers and suppliers, German auto-parts maker Continental told U.S. regulators.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is now probing whether vehicles and parts sold by those other companies also contain defective fuel pump flanges from Continental, which can crack and cause a fuel leak, increasing the risk of a fire, according to a document posted on NHTSA's website.
In a NHTSA filing made public Friday, Continental said it also sold the potentially defective parts to automakers including General Motors Co., Ford Motor Co., Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, Daimler's Mercedes-Benz and Tata Motors' Jaguar Land Rover. To date, no fires tied to the defect have been reported to NHTSA or Continental, spokesmen for the company and the agency said.
Mary Arraf, a U.S. spokeswoman for Continental, said the parts were made from the same type of industry-standard plastic called polyoxymethylen-copolymer. She said in the recalled vehicles, the material can break down due to environmental factors and exposure to acids in cleaning solutions, and that the risk of a crack can also be affected by where the part is installed in a vehicle.
It's too early to estimate how many additional vehicles may need to be recalled but the situation highlights how one faulty part can ripple risk throughout the auto industry, said Dave Sullivan, an analyst with consultancy AutoPacific Inc.
"That's kind of what the story of the whole auto industry is," Sullivan said. "Consolidation has happened and there's a race for cheaper parts that are shared across more vehicles."
The recalls so far affect certain Porsche Macan, Audi Q5, Audi Q7 and VW Touareg SUVs sold over the last decade. The fuel pump flange is generally mounted in the fuel tank and closes an opening used to mount other fuel and vapor management.
The other companies Continental supplied the fuel pump flanges to were McLaren, Lamborghini, Volvo and suppliers Magna International, TI Automotive, Plastic Omnium, YAPP USA Automotive Systems and Kautex Textron.
Continental's Arraf said the company is communicating with all of its potentially impacted customers and has not heard of any flanges leaking on vehicles other than those produced by VW, Porsche and Audi.
A spokeswoman for Volkswagen's U.S. unit didn't immediately respond to an email seeking comment.